SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
This week in WWE programming featured Smackdown’s final push towards Battleground while Raw’s stories for Summerslam started to take shape. Lets take a closer look at who stood out and who missed the mark.
RAW ALL-STARS: SETH ROLLINS & DEAN AMBROSE
The opening segment Monday night featured both Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins in the best versions of themselves. The chemistry between these two was fantastic and the tension they created within their current situation was executed very well. Seth was finally able to fully come clean about all of his mistakes in the past. As Seth’s babyface character is still taking shape, he took massive steps forward on Monday as he put himself in a position to do whatever it takes to earn his former brother’s trust back. Aside from yelling out “thank you sir, may I have another,” Rollins garnered Tommy Dreamer in ECW-level sympathy that was sold perfectly by Ambrose. Dean played his part really well too. We did not get the whacky, zany, comedic relief character that is normally eye-roll inducing, but a much more serious side of Ambrose that was genuinely concerned about letting his guard down. What I loved so much about this is that it is still an open ended story with many possible outcomes. With Seth’s ability to endear himself to the crowd even further, Dean could use that to turn heel and stab Rollins in the back much like he did years ago. They could also team up. The Raw tag team division is extremely thin and with neither Ambrose or Rollins with set plans heading into Summerslam they could challenge Sheamus & Cesaro. That would be a fresh matchup. Lastly, both men could head into Summerslam squaring off against The Miz in a triple threat match for the Intercontinental Championship. All options would be exciting and it is great to see more intrigue being added to this story.
RAW NOTABLE ALL-STAR: TITUS O’NEIL
In a very crowded episode of Raw I wanted to make sure I highlighted a fantastic segment led by Titus O’Neil. With Raw’s mid-card roster being weak and “time filling” spots falling flat week after week, it was really refreshing to see such a passionate segment from O’Neil and Titus Worldwide. Understanding that this trio has shifted to a babyface group, Titus’ pep talk following a few defeats in previous weeks was a fantastic character builder and was also a reprieve for both Tozawa and Crews’ losses. For the first time in a while Titus came off extremely genuine in his delivery and reacted perfectly to Ariya Daivari’s intrusion on their team meeting. Well done.
RAW UNDERPERFORMER: KURT ANGLE (and whoever wrote this payoff)
My goodness was I excited for this big reveal. With all of the anticipation and suspense, I probably oversold this to myself but was still very interested. What we all saw play out on Raw left much to be desired. On Wade’s new podcast he talked about much of the reaction being negative to the reveal of Jason Jordan being Kurt Angle’s son and the difficulty for fans to suspend their disbelief for an angle like this is 2017. I couldn’t agree more. Up until he came to the ring, Angle did sell this story well with how nervous he was and the hesitation he had to go out and announce this to the world. The problem was when he came to the ring and his entire demeanor switched. He was excited all of a sudden. So proud to be the father of a WWE Superstar. I am not sure if the other rumored outcomes such as a Dixie Carter appearance, a backstage conflict with Stephanie McMahon, or Chad Gable taking the place of Jason Jordan would have been much better but this just seemed to fall so flat. The crowd, who was hot for most of the evening, did not seem to buy it too much and many folks on social media looked like they feel the same. While I had to use Kurt’s name in the “under performer” title I place most of the blame on the creative team who comes off as more out of touch with what fans want than ever. Sure, this could lead to some interesting stories and matchups moving forward and a great platform for Jordan to showcase what he is made of, but it just isn’t something I can sink my teeth into. Wrestling is much like music in that different people have different tastes. This just did not work with mine.
SMACKDOWN ALL-STAR: CHAD GABLE
Aside from a few short backstage segments, this is the most we have heard from Chad Gable and he did a fantastic job in his sit down interview with Renee Young. Within the storyline, Gable reacted fantastically to the news that broke about his tag team partner. Speaking about Jordan’s recent mood and his frustration with his partner not confiding in him was spot on and felt very genuine. What worked most about this segment was how confidently Gable talked about his abilities in the ring. While he kept a lot of his plans secret, his line about this being a new beginning for him resonated. When he spoke about his performances against Kevin Owens and AJ Styles fans nodded along and most likely remembered exactly how well Gable performed against two of Smackdown’s best. There is no doubt that he is a tremendous wrestler but in this interview he also showed that he has a voice and could hold his own on the mic. It is unclear how Gable will be used moving forward but this was a great first step in his new singles run.
SMACKDOWN UNDERPERFORMERS: RANDY ORTON and JINDER MAHAL
With Battleground being less than a week away, here is to hoping these two are done with one another so I can focus on someone else for the Smackdown “under performers” section of this piece. For what seems like the 9-10th week in a row, Jinder Mahal told us how much we disrespect him because he was different and Randy said he was going to beat him up. Rinse, repeat. At this point the novelty of a new and fresh WWE Champion has worn off and these segments feel more like filler and less like a main event program. Sure, the Punjabi Prison added something to the presentation on Tuesday but it the explanation of the rules and stipulations of the match were far too wordy and confusing. It is evident that WWE has yet to give Jinder any creative freedom as it still comes off that he is reciting lines from a script and even his body language and facial expressions are timed and over-produced. There is a reason why ratings for Smackdown have dropped since Jinder became Champion and with wrestlers Like AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, John Cena and Kevin Owens on the roster it just doesn’t seem fathomable that Mahal could even be in this position. The segment did nothing to build anticipation for this match and it was two men regurgitating the same lines they have said for two months now. There is no sugar coating it folks, its brutal.
Follow Michael on Twitter: @TheWrestlingFix
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: ALL STARS & UNDER PERFORMERS: Samoa Joe, Roman Reigns, A.J. Styles, Charlotte Flair